Gower, The Reader

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5/26/2019 6:15 AM

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"He was slightly less unfun"

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Dialogue Punctuation
This is a brief discussion of how to punctuate dialogue in US and UK English. It also notes a few rules for quotation mark use in general.

Recent Posts

The DUEL Stories - May 2019 on 5/24/2019 4:06:44 PM

Please ignore what I said earlier about private voting--let's do this in public.

For your votes to count, they *must* be made in response to this post.

The DUEL Stories - May 2019 on 5/24/2019 4:06:00 PM

Both ways have fairness pitfalls; if votes are done in public, earlier votes, especially those done by well-known people, can influence later votes.  But sure, let's vote in public this time around.

The main thing is to not wait our time voting on how we should vote!

The DUEL Stories - May 2019 on 5/24/2019 3:49:05 PM

Yes, send votes to me privately to ensure the fairest voting.

The DUEL Stories - May 2019 on 5/24/2019 1:27:05 PM

Yes, I don't see why not.  But it's not *classy* to do so.

PM votes to me, and I will tabulate them and post the results next week.

Tourney of the Chillen on 5/24/2019 1:22:49 PM

I made a new thread because this is one is impossible to read.  Stories are all posted now.

The DUEL Stories - May 2019 on 5/24/2019 1:21:31 PM

Please vote for your top three stories, in order.

Your #1 will receive 3 points, your #2 will receive 2 points, and your #3 will receive 1 point.

Voting will end 5/31/19 at 1 pm EST.

The DUEL Stories - May 2019 on 5/24/2019 1:18:13 PM

Story A: 


“We’re survivors,” he told her across the flame of the lamp.
“What in God’s name are you talking about? It’s been an entire week since half our weaponthanes have gone searching for help, and not even one man has returned!”
The clan hall fell silent, save for the sniffling of another orphaned child. Huddled around the dim glow of the lamp, all of them knew that they would soon be starving. Dead.
“Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us. They are going to kill us and eat us and you won’t face it.”
“Hell woman! We haven’t even seen them yet – we don’t even know what they are yet!”
“I’m not sticking around to find out.”
She stood up from her seat, moving down the steps and towards the oak doors, but stopped. She returned to her seat; one of the guards had motioned in the strangers.

One of them spoke: “Kobolds?”
The villagers gaped at the outsiders. There haven’t been any since the roads had been blocked. Under his breath, the man whispered a prayer.
“The worst kind. It’s the Happy-Fun-Fun Band.”
“They’re kobolds nonetheless,” one of them smirked.
“But it’s strange, all the traces we picked up are at least half a moon old,” another replied.
“Well, this lot is just better at hiding their tracks. Besides, we were told to get here as soon as possible.”
A sigh of relief sawed through the air.
“You’re the hunters we sent for! Please... you’re our last chance!”

One kobold steps forward. His nipples have been heavily pierced, and he has a tattoo of a target on his forehead.
“As leader of the Happy-Fun-Fun Band, we got no incentive to help ya,” he says, trying to sound gangster.
The so-called survivors look shocked, and one man rises quickly from his seat.
“Why would you answer our call if you didn’t plan on helping us!?”
Target-head speaks, “I didn’t say we weren’t gonna, I just said we had no incentive homies!” He smirks, “We gonna require some land when we done killin’ off those things.”
“How much land?”
“To be determined!” At this the kobolds’ raucous laughter fills the hall, and they filter out.
Once the laughter and padding of muddy reptilian feet fades away in the distance, a woman says, “Looks like we don’t have a choice. They looked tough enough. If they kill those things that have been hunting us, I’m willing to sacrifice some land for that.”
Meanwhile, the Happy-Fun-Fun Band (HFFB), now out of earshot of the survivors, shows what they’re made of.

“S-shit, Nip! You’re gonna get us all eaten!”
The kobold speaking looks at target head, or Nip, his knees knocking together. Nip tries to respond, but is busy hyperventilating. The rest of them are either crying or have already ditched the mission.

The HFFB, consisting now of about 8 kobolds, huddles together in the dark on the muddy dirt road.
An obese black-scaled kobold sniffles, “Nip, we actually gonna do this?”
“We don’t got much of a choice, Jongulus. We’ve been getting killed off jus’ as much as the humans. If we can find out what those beasts are, we could come up with a plan to scare them away or something?”
He phrased it like a question, not sure if this was a good idea. Nip looks around for confirmation of his plan, but is met only by nervous tail-thumping.
“How’re WE gonna kill those thing?!” Jongulus shrieks. He doesn’t know what plural is.
At his outburst the entire HFFB shushes him. “Jong you dipwad, if they’re around you just killed us all!” a kobold whispers. They sit in silence pissing themselves for a moment, waiting for one of them to get skewered or dragged off into the brush, but nothing happens.
Nip, still quivering in fright, says, “H-homies, let’s go find these things. We may not be fighters, but we are trackers. Hands in homies.”
One by one the remaining members of the HFFB stretches their talons into the middle.
Nip chants, “What do we do?”
In unison, the reply, “Wuss out.”
“And why?”
“Cause we’re kobold(s) through an’ through. Hoo-rah.”
“If things git rough, don’t be ‘fraid to wuss out. Let’s get goin’,” Nip says.

They trudge off towards the forested area where they believe the beasts to be hiding. They walk in a group, trying to be the one in the middle of the circle where they will likely be slaughtered last. Once the forest gets dense, Nip suggests some of them taking to the trees, while the rest stay grounded to find tracks. By the rest, he means Jongulus, who is too fat to climb. They continue.
Eventually, from below, Jongulus knocks on the tree trunk Nip just landed on.
“I found... S-some track.”
“Lead the way then.”
“But I don’t wanna get eaten,” Jongulus says with tears in his eyes. If kobolds had any semblance of lips, they would be quivering.
Nip lets loose a sigh, turning to a puke-green kobold with one eye.
“Pubert, Jongulus found some tracks. I need you to scout ahead.”
“No,” replies Pubert in the worst way possible.
Everyone else raises their whispers enough to respond, “Shut the hell up Pubert.” “Your mom gay, Pubert.” “No one loves you, Pubert.”
Pubert is universally despised among all races. He deserves this.
“Jongulus, feel free to not back him up.”
Pubert is pushed from his tree in his refusal to climb down, to the delight of the HFFB. He creeps forward to scout in the worst way possible.
After a while of following Pubert waiting for him for die, he stops, frozen mid-step. He looks around. He moves forward. He stops.
“Guys. The tracks end here,” he says in the worst way possible. Pubert turns around to look for his haters. The HFFB wait in both fear and anticipation, out of sight. They see a blur darting from tree to tree, getting ever closer to the unassuming Pubert. The blur stops behind a tree, in full view of the other kobolds, and peers out to look at Pubert who is wandering around whimpering in the worst way possible.
The figure has red eyes, and a spiky blue body. The gleam of its teeth shine with newly drawn blood.
“Oop,” whispers Jongulus. He just stepped on a branch and demolished it.
The figure turns in the direction of the HFFB.
CRUNCH. Jongulus crouched against a rock for support, and it crumbled beneath his mass.
It smiles wider, and steps into a rare patch of moonlight that made its way through the branches.

Hello, prey, it growls. The quotation marks have run away in fear. Before the quivering kobolds stands an abomination. A creature from hell.
I am from hell, it says. I am Sonic. It is indeed Sonic, a very scary one.
Sonic’s head flicks toward Pubert, or what was once Pubert. In an instant the kobold is finally gone, a puddle of piss marking the spot where he once stood in the worst way possible. Sonic’s jaws drip with a puke green substance.
I am still hungry, Sonic says, turning to look for the one responsible for the crunch from earlier. Jongulus, now making direct eye contact with the monster.
“No! Not him!” yells Nip. He leaps down from the tree.
Flake out. Nip’s mind may or may not explode.
Wuss out. His being, his very sense of self is being contradicted.
Run away. But he can’t. His friend is about to die.
Kobold, are you stupid?
“H-hold on, h-h-homie. L-let’s make a d-deal.” Nip knows they have no way of killing this thing in a fight or getting away. It’s way too fast. But there might be one thing that could beat Sonic. Pubert. Sonic had chosen the worst person to eat first. His overwhelming toxicity would soon take over Sonic’s system and kill him from the inside.
“Let’s d-do a race. If you win, I’ll give you our t-treasure. If I win, you let us live.”
Stupid kobold. Sonic clicks his claws together. I don’t care about treasure. Sonic steps forward. I want the thrill of the kill. Another step. I want to see you suffer. A blur of movement, and then a screech. Nip is on the ground, a puddle of blood already pooling underneath him.
“Hey!” Jongulus steps forward, his legs almost buckling. “I bet y-you can’t eat me!”
A kobold jumps down, “Yeah, m-me neither!”
The rest of the HFFB leap down one by one. “You can’t eat all of us!”
A scream rings out and a kobold goes down.
Another spray of hot kobold blood.
A kobold is thrown into a tree.
In a frenzy, Sonic’s eyes burn red. He laughs as he does it, striking at random until every member of the HFFB is down on the ground, moaning in pain. Some dead. Sonic moves to stand over Nip, who’s barely conscious.
Sonic raises his claws, but pauses. One claw lowers to his stomach, and he groans.
Nip speaks. “Gehe, I always hated that little shit. I’m sure you will too, homie.”
Sonic screams, and explodes in a flash of blue energy. He’s dead, and for once in his miserable life Pubert did something.
Their numbers depleted, but having accomplished the mission nonetheless, the surviving five members of the HFFB stagger back to the human camp.
“You know, I didn’t know kobold like us could stand up like that,” Jongulus says.
“I didn’t know I had it in me either, homie,” says Nip. “Maybe we aren’t so much kobold as we thought.”

Long story short, they get that land. And the HFFB live happily ever after, or whatever. Moral of the story: it’s okay to wuss out, but sometimes it’s not. The end.



Story B:

Splat! An egg to some, but a stolen brother to another, meets its demise against cold brick on this Halloween night. The throwers do not know who they are messing with, and it's not the person within the besieged house. Their idea of a festive fun is an act of war to the onlooking crowd, and today is the day where they will no longer stand idle while their unborn children are constantly being used as nothing more than a practical joke. Their mistakes will become apparent to them; they will no longer look at chickens with glutton in their eyes, but instead will run away in fear.

“Colonel Clucks,” he says, turning away from their enemy, “Prepare yourself and your platoon.”

“Yes sir,” The Colonel’s expression hardens, already starting with himself. They’ve known each other for awhile, practically joining the resistance at the same time as one another, but it has always been evident who the better leader is.

This assault has been in the making ever since he took the place of the former EggLord. He and his people have grown stronger underneath his lead, they know that this is the only way to end the oppression that befell their people. But he didn’t sit thinking for hours over every single way step in this process for his fellow chickens, or even for peace, he worked as hard as he did for himself. However, it is not pride or legacy that guides him towards the destruction of man, but revenge.


He was only a little rooster, during that fateful day. He believed that he was safe within the confines of the fence. The idea of imprisonment never occurred to him. He was naive and weak. His mother suddenly guided him to a pile of high grass, for reasons unknown to him at the time.

“Stay here little one,” she whispered softly to him, “You’ll be safe.”

He did not know what was going on, but knew better than to defy her wishes. And he didn’t. He watched on as they took away his mother, his family, his life. He knew from young age about strategy, and that trying to stop the men would be futile. He knew that it would only result in your mother’s anguish, but that didn’t make him feel like any less of a coward. Later that night as the smell of charred flesh and the sound of human laughter wafted to his small nook in the corner of the pen, you felt nothing but regret and guilt. He vowed to make them pay, to make them suffer as he did.

In the dark of the night, he went to the peeled back part of the chicken wire, and forced himself through the small gap, and he was then outside. Walking over to where his mother’s murders slept, he noticed a flickering light within a grill. Being the only grill, he knew that this must have been what transformed your now deceased mother into what humans consider edible. A plan of deadly irony formulated within the rooster’s young mind. The vessel in which they dwell is made of nothing more than wood, and he smiled. The grill was already close enough to the house that there was no need to move it. Moving to the base of the grill, he realized that he was once again graced with luck: the grill was fashioned with wheels on its legs. He disconnected the wheel closest to the house, and stepped back as the grill tumbled down and crashed against the exterior wall. The red hot charcoal gets dumped up against the wall, and a look of malicious satisfaction crossed his face. Screams of terror escaped from inside, but being heard is not one of benefits of living in the country. It's already too late for them, they must not of had safety in mind when deciding to only have one entrance to help conserve heat in the winter. Their screams quickly turned into coughs from the smoke, then nothing. A monster was born that day, and it was born with a great desire for the agony of humans. He turned away and began walking, his thirst for revenge only momentarily quenched.


He will never be able to forget what they did to him, and once he’s done, they won’t be able to forget what he’s done.




Story C:


Cold steel lined the walls of the dark hallway. At the end of the hallway was a room, behind a door that displayed in big bold letters KEEP OUT. A smaller set of bold letters beneath this one announced that behind the door was Turbine 04 and it shall
only be entered by proper maintenance and administrative personnel of the City of New London. The room was the reason for the deafening noise in the hallway. It contained Turbine 04, one of the Turbines keeping the City of New London afloat. If one could gain access to the turbine hangar, they could view the wasteland that was the Old World. Junk and dirt was all that was left of the formerly gleaming metropolises. But for the Cities of the Sky, the junk was all they needed to stay alive.

A bloody trail led down the hallway to a body, belonging to that of one Arthur Reed, an investigative journalist working in New London for the extremely successful newspaper the London Times. Three men towered over Reed, one watching as the other two beat him up. The two doing the beating were nothing more than thugs, scavengers brought in from the streets, given tattoos of whatever gang they were joining, and finally either dying for their gang or rotting in prison. Either way, these two were cannon fodder, extra muscle, and scapegoats. The gloved fist, inked onto the back of their necks was just another sign of ownership, of allegiance, and of being worthless in the eyes of society and their masters. The man with the scarred face behind them was a man of much greater value, in wealth and in brains. The shadows of his top hat hid his features, but his malicious grin could be seen from miles away. A scholar of sorts, but not a well-intentioned one. A gentleman on the outside, a madman within. The man’s mechanical arm snaked out of his coat, it’s gears spun as it moved in tune to the subconscious commands of its owner. The owner of the arm laughed with glee as his victim attempted to get up only to be knocked down again.

“Do you want us to stop, Reed?”, The beaten man spit in the direction of the voice, to which a punch retorted.

“This can all be over, just give me the photographs and you can be sitting at your fireplace with a nice glass of brandy by supper, wouldn’t that be nice?”. More saliva projectiles were launched, to which more clenched balls of flesh replied.

“Oh come on, surely a few photos aren’t worth all this nonsense,” said the voice as it pointed at the bloody mess with mild disgust.

“Hahahahahahahahahahaha,” another fist slammed into Reed’s stomach, “I find it hilarious you think that I have them, they’ll lock you up forever old man!” The man nodded to one of the thugs who began to drag the poor heap of flesh and bone towards the door labeled Turbine 04.

“No you couldn’t, you .. you wouldn’t!” exclaimed the frightened Reed. The man held the door open revealing a large dome shaped room with a giant well in the center. A small control center was located in the far end of the room to control the turbine which roared from within the well. The two men carelessly dragged their luggage into the room. “I told you, I don’t have the photos!”

“Where are they then!” Silence came in response. Then the footsteps started again.

“Stop! I don’t even know where they are, I think I lost them earlier tod…”

“Lies!” screamed the man in the top hat. The footsteps continued as the noise of the turbine became almost deafening.

“Gentleman, gentleman, please be reasonable. I’ll give you anything, anything you want, just say the word,” pleaded Arthur, his words half drowned out by the turbine.

“Do it” was the response he got. The thugs lifted him up and over the railing before tossing him over. Arthur’s screams were heard by no one, the evisceration of his body was seen by no one. On that day Arthur Reed of the New London Times disappeared.


Story D:

Lucas awoke to find it raining. Just another miserable day in his miserable life. As he got out of bed you contemplate how life in general is pitiful. He got up to find the house deserted, and the smell of pot is in the air. He sighs and opens the fridge and freezer to find exactly what he expected, nothing. He curses and walks out the door.

Lucas was 16 and knew that he was old enough to take care of everything. His mother died when he was nine, months nd his dad is a good for nothing junky. After his mom died he had to take care of his two brothers and his one sister, while his dad was out hanging out in bars drinking, or smoking pot with his friends.

His sister is a ten year old named Catherine, and does not bother him much, because she knows how much he does for everyone. His brothers however are a different story. They are both eight and are twins. They are constantly complaining about everything and saying hurtful things to him. Even though he hates them sometimes, their need for him is one of the only things that keeps him going.

After he got his car started he headed for Elizabeth's house. She had taken them for the night, so he could take a well needed break. When he got there though, all he found was a worried Elizabeth at the the door. The twins were sitting there quite as well, witch meant something had to be wrong.

As he walked up to the door he noticed Elizabeth to be crying. In all the time he had known her he had never seen her cry. While she is crying she manages to get out, “Catharine, gone, walk, not back.” As it clicks in his mind, he starts to cry also. They lean on each other's shoulders for a good fifteen minutes before you calmed down. After he does he realizes that the twins are watching him to see what they should do. He goes over to them and hugs them, and with that he gets in his car and leaves.

As he drives down the road, enraged that this has happened, he stops in an abandoned parking lot and called his sorry excuse for a father. He hopes he has her because there are a lot of pedophiles, and traffickers around this town and if they got her… then there is not much hope.

As the phone rings his dad picks up, “What the fuck do you want. If you think I’m giving you money or something, then forget about it. I told you to you should get rid of those parasites a long time ago. We have a perfectly good orphanage around here, and their good for nothing anyway. Just get rid of them and…”

“RYAN SHUT THE FUCK UP,” he is outraged but tries to contain himself as he continues, “ okay so Catharine has gone missing. Do you have her or not?”

“Heh I might have her. So what if I do? She is useless anyway. I mean I think I can get a good price on her, and you don’t even know where we are at.”

“What the fuck are you doing!? Your going to sell your Daughter for money!?”

“Hey we need money somehow. I’m forced to pay the a part of the bills because your lazy ass has a low paying job. If you had done better we would not be in this mess. I’m in debt to Austen. If I don’t give him his money for the drugs by Friday I’m fucked, so I’m sorry but my hands are tied. Why do you care about this worthless piece of trash anyway? She does nothing for you, and is a burden. Anyway they are almost here so I’ll have to leave, but no hard feelings okay?”

With that he hangs up, leaving Lucas speechless. He knew he was a douchebag, but to go this far… there was no word that described his rage at that moment. He exploded in a fit of rage and broke his window with his fist. The pain felt good. While he was still in control of himself he sent a message to Catharine to take care of the twins for him, and that Ryan had sold her. He then explained that he was going to the bridge to do what he had to do, and with that he smashed his phone and walked towards the bridge.




Story E:

Mouse Utopia

Two women were drinking inside of a little hut, built on a small patch of flat land in the middle of a forest. One of them, lying on the floor asks the other to tell her one of her stories. The other in her chair, far less tipsy, refuses politely at first but as the night grows colder and her glass emptier, she agrees. She tells her old friend that she'd tell a story about the forest they were currently in, and how the actions of little people made big changes. The other woman laughed, "What would you know about what the animals do?" The one on the chair however simply smiled and told her compatriot to listen.


The forest was in a bit of a crisis at the time.

Before all that however, let me explain how the forest was organized at the time. The forest was split up into two different groups. One were the daywalkers. They were the ones brave, fast, or clever enough to move out when the sun was still up. The other were the nightcrawlers. They either had no such strengths or were too smart to risk their lives.

Now, this story is about a certain wood mouse named Elliot.
Most wood mice follow a certain schedule, and he was no different. What made him special was what was different about his schedule. Most wood mice are nightcrawlers and wake in the evening. Elliot got up a little earlier than that. Right when the sun was beginning to set. This let him cross paths for however short, with both the daywalkers and the nightcrawlers.

While this in itself made himself special to the forest, it was one particular day that made him important to me.

He had left his burrow right when the sky started yellowing. Before leaving he made sure he left a firm, green twig standing. It would help lead him back in case he couldn't find his way.

As usual, he started off with looking for insect nests. Personally, he couldn't possibly digest the creatures, but he knew plenty who could. Bats, small birds, and certain martens. He'd always make sure to befriend the correct type. Otherwise, he'd likely find himself in someone else stomach. After all, he knew how delicious other animals thought mice were.

He quickly tracked down a fallen oak's final resting place invaded by maggots and woodlice. He took note of the area the same way he did with his home. Biting off a small green stem popping up from the ground he plunged it next to the dark bark of the once mighty tree.

Finally, at least his life was assured for today. He wasn't fast or strong but he was clever enough to find friends who were.

Now he could finally begin looking for his own food.

Just as the yellowed sky turned to a deeper orange hue, he continued his search. After minutes of scurrying and sniffing, Elliot got a waft of a delectably sweet scent.

Tracking it down, Elliot could only dream of what might await him. The scent was strong, stronger than even the sweetest blueberries he'd tasted. What could have possibly made such a scent?

Taking a look around the corner of a tree, he saw something very odd. Contrasting the vivid colors of the landscape, he saw a very odd tree. It was short and stout compared to most trees he had seen, but it's color was unlike anything he had ever seen. It's bark was white like the clouds above, and it had but one giant leaf atop it. Brown like bark, and folded in the shape of a mountain.

The scent was still in the air. Circling around the odd tree, the mouse found a bush. A tall bush of blueberries. Hundreds of times his height. If he were younger, more brash then perhaps he would have leapt at the opportunity immediately but Elliot was a bit old for a wood mouse. Maybe just a babe in human years, but wood mice rarely live older than a single year.

Some careful vetting led to him noticing the pillars of wood surrounding the bush. He noted that they were close enough to perhaps keep out a larger creature like a rabbit, but he was more than small enough to slip through the gaps.

Up and close to the gorgeous smell, before biting in he also noticed how big the blueberries were. Perhaps a reflection of the bush's also irregular size.

The mouse sprinted up the bush and grabbed a few juicy berries, as many as he could bring. Before leaving for his burrow he decided to try at least one of the berries.
Biting in with his incisors, a a squeeze of the sweet juice sprayed his nose. The sweet scent entrancing him, he dug in furiously.

Now, Elliot had heard about this supposed crisis from earlier. A friend of his, a little forest bat named Jupiter had told him about certain rumors of a new predator. It seemed as though that from Jupiter's vantage point in the sky, she could see all sorts of things that those on the ground couldn't. In this case, it wasn't what she could see that worried her.

It was what she couldn't see that did.

All the house mice, the littlest but most aggressive mice had just disappeared. Overnight, the once numerous group of mice was reduced to a fragment of the original group. Elliot would have then thought to ask the house mice directly what had happened, but the house mice were a special type of mice.

They were incredibly territorial, even more than the usual mice. There was no way he was going to be able to talk to one of them.

He did however remember something. Something his mother had told him while he was still weening.

"House mice are different from us. While they seem aggressive they're actually scared."

"Scared of what?", he'd ask.

"The forest. Unlike us, the forest isn't their home. They have a utopia somewhere."

Elliot couldn't help but remember his mother's words at the moment. Because while he was snacking on his berry, the sky drew dark.

CREAK, he heard.

Turning to the noise, he saw a figure. Obscured by the dark, but he could tell. It looked nothing like any animal he'd ever seen. And it stood so tall, it made the huge bush from earlier look minuscule.

"Where the humans live."

"Mouse Utopia."


Story F:


Hemon has always been an outcast since his birth, his mother died giving birth to him and his father has despised him for that his entire life. The most notable action his father took against him was leaving him to fend his home against bandits single-handedly. The cabin was a simple refuge, made of oak, it was just large enough to house three people. Darkness was closing in on the area, and two figures walk out of the cabin, one was twenty-two, the other was fifty-three.

"Father, since I was last in the village there have been reports of outlaws out in force in the woods, you should stay here instead of going through the forest to reach the village, the elder can wait another night can he not?" The young man asked pleadingly.
The older man stares hard at his son, his glare threatened severe retribution for this slight on his honor "Did I bring you up to be a coward boy?" His voice rising enough to scare all wildlife from the vicinity. "If your mother was still alive to see this, she would die of shame" his words had accomplished it's intended effect. The young man fights back tears and made his way into the cabin, the cabin is dimly lit and has an atmosphere of peace, yet a feeling persists of a storm arriving.

As the young man dwells on this 'incoming storm', he hears shouting from outside, He rushes out longsword in hand, he notices five men two on horseback, arguing with his father. He quickly glanced to his father who hastily turns away.
"What is the meaning of this!?" The son demands to know.
Whilst he was shouting three more bandits came out from the woods and draw their weapons
"What should we do with this one?" Inquires one of the fiends
"Just kill them both, they don't have what we are looking for," One of the riders said presumably the leader.
"Wait, where is the old man," One of the others asks
"Looks like you lost him, bloody fool," The leader sharply scolds the other rider. "Kill this one and find the older one then kill him," the leader continues, both horsemen ride away likely looking for their actual target.

Two of the outlaws move left, two slowly walk forward and two go right. The son uses a fighting stance he learned from a traveling knight years ago in the village, the two from the center charge hastily, he parries and a sword passes right by his ear, as the two outlaws used all their energy on the offensive, they were left open and the son exploits it. He uses his entire body and shoves the sword through one of them, the other uses this time to get in a half-prepared stance
"Tired yet? Well don't worry, you will have more than enough time to sleep when I am done with you" The outlaw taunts hoping to anger the young man into a stupid charge.
"Tired? I am just getting started," He replies.
The other outlaws watch with interest at this duel.
The outlaw and son are at an impasse, both unwilling to give up their defense, finally, the outlaw decides to charge and they both clash in a fight of blood, sweat, and tears.
Torches can be seen in the background approaching but the two combatants don't care as their battle wages. Death comes at last for the outlaw, he leaves his lower left flank open and the son impales him with his sword. Now, that the conflict is finally over, he collapses to the ground and feels the agony hit him, mostly due to fatigue and a serious pain on his ear.
He wearily looks for the other outlaws but none are to be found, He only finds his father and 4 guardsmen. His stare was the worst wound the son took that night, the stare of disappointment that he was still alive.

















Story G:


There were unicorns glistening a bright golden-white, in the hue of the rainbow. They were following the magical trail of seven colours, tracing across the bright blue sky. Clouds, like spots of white, dotted the welkin. The view was magnificent, and cheerfulness was so widespread that even the air was singing with glee.

However, the jovial atmosphere of this fantasy world wasn’t going to last long, since there was a danger. A threat, so massive, that it could engulf this whole utopia into suffering with just a single breath!

Suddenly, the sky turned an ominous dark. The rainbow vanished, leaving the unicorns baffled. Then, there was a crack. It sounded as if someone was using a sledgehammer to shatter a wall. Then, another and another! In mere seconds, they were out. The black faceless demons engulfed the whole world, strangling the unicorns and feeding on the blue sky itself. Once beaming with cheerfulness, it was now nothing more than a dark void. One of them was coming directly at you! It’s menacing claws, aimed directly at your throat! It made contact, and blood spurted out all around you. You were slowly losing consciousness from the immense pain...


You attempt to scream, but it’s muffled, as you wake up with a startle. Your eyes open to reveal a hooded figure with a mask, his hands clutching your neck and squeezing with all his might. After regaining your senses, and realising the mortal danger you’re in, with your unkempt nails, you scratch at his eyes. The unknown assailant curses and grabs his eyes, releasing his grip and giving you enough time to slip out and run. Your feet land with a crunch on the light frost formed on the ground. The streets are desolate this early in the morning, with people huddled together around makeshift campfires, fueled by the plastic and waste scattered all around.

Rounding a corner, you jump into the dark lobby of a building, but accidentally land on someone in the process. Your assailant rushes past the building without a second thought, followed by few more of his henchmen.

“Hey, get off,” says the person crushed below your weight, with a feminine voice.

“Sorry,” you say as you get up, and offer her a hand. She pulls on your hand, getting up and speaks,”Its fine. I assume those hoodlums who were behind your back, would’ve probably injured you much more than my greased elbow.”

“Yeah, thank you for leaving the door open. Now, if you don’t mind I have to be on my way...” you say as you begin to turn around towards the exit, but are immediately stopped with a tug pulling your hand.

“Wait! Now that you’re here, how ‘bout you come in? It’s too cold out there,” she says, and before you can respond, practically drags you up the squeaking, rusted wooden stairs, and into a desolate room. There’s a fire pit in the middle with a roaring flame, along with a makeshift cot made of plastic tarp, and a few books scattered around.

“Welcome, to my humble abode,” says the voice with a sarcastic tone. You stand outside the apartment door, looking around your surroundings. You finally get a look at the woman now that you’re out of the darkness. She has long, black hair, which is completely messed up and with a few hidden lines of white. She wears a simple untidy T-shirt, torn in a few places and a jeans with a half torn off left leg, which is a completely unfit attire for the current weather.

“What’s with the menacing look?” She says, as she sits down by the flame.

“You offer quite a lot of hospitality to unknown strangers,” you reply. “I’m quite surprised that you haven’t been beaten to death and robbed yet.”

“Wow, quite a way to thank your saviour,” she says. “This war might’ve fucked up the mind of a lot of folks, but not mine. I know the difference between a friend and a foe.”

Suddenly, you hear an explosion followed by gunfire, probably a few blocks away, but pay no mind to it. You’ve become more than adept to that sound since the start of the war.

“C’mon now, have a seat,” says the lady, also seemingly unfazed by the sound. You sit down, close to the fire right next to her.

“Thank you, those rebel fucks would’ve probably beaten me to death. This is the fourth civilian settlement they’ve attacked in the last month, and to think once upon a time I rooted for those fucking war criminals,” you say in contempt.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she says. “If I’m being honest, I kind of lost track of who’s on who’s side. The army has snipers stationed throughout the whole city, and those pieces of shit will shoot anyone they see out in the street in the day. You’re lucky you weren’t shot,” she says as she takes a piece of wood and throws it into the fire

“Yeah I know,” you reply. “I’ve been out scavenging at night for my group, and one of them almost clipped me,” you say as you reveal a scar directly across your cheek.

“Oh man, you’re really lucky,” she says in shock.

“Yeah, but now, I hope I wasn’t,” you say.

To which you don’t get a reply. She simply stares in your eyes, her blue eyes glistening in the sunlight seeping through the boarded up window.

“You know, before you came waltzing in here, there was a group holed up in here. A man and his ten year old daughter, along with a deserter from the army. Me and my husband...,” she falls silent for a moment, but then continues,”...both of us were wandering around for shelter. Our apartment building had been shelled, and burnt to the ground. We wandered in here, and requested shelter but were denied.

They claimed to not have enough food to feed everyone, but we begged and pleaded and were finally let in, on the condition that one of us should go out every night and scavenge for supplies. It was risky, but we had no choice. I was in the navy and was discharged a month before the civil war broke out, so I was the one who used to go out every night. There were a few close calls, and a few skirmishes and gunfights with others; but I came back in one piece thanks to Lucy here,” she says as she removes a .45 1911 pistol tucked in here jeans,”She served me well in the navy and is still my best friend.”

“Well, I can’t even think of a better friend than that,” you say.

“Ha ha sure. Then one day, I came back with a particularly good haul. 4 canned peas from that beat-down supermarket,” she says.

“The local mart?” you say with a surprise,”I heard that was a rebel stronghold.”

To which she replied,”I snuck in, had to take care of the lone guard in the basement but there was no one else down there.”

“You have a lot of guts,” you say.

“Yeah...” she replies in an empty tone. “You know, if I had deemed that mart to be too risky and returned back empty handed, things could’ve been different. When I came back, I heard voices through the door, and observing through the peephole, there were two soldiers inside the flat. I immediately opened fire at the closed door and emptied the magazine as the bullets went through the door,” she says, as she points at the closed door with a few sizeable holes still in it,”rushing in over their dead bodies, u saw that those fucks, they...” she suddenly starts grasping for breath, as drops of tears fall down from her eyes.
You instinctively grab her, and embrace her deeply.

“Th-they shot everyone! Even Nathan! They shot him!” she says while crying in your arms,”I-I...”

“It’s alright,” you say,”you don’t need to speak anymore,” you say, as you stare into her eyes, and wipe out the tears, with your thumb. Slowly, her face creeps towards yours as your lips meet. You both kiss for a while before letting go.

“Thank you,” she says,”I’ve been holed up here since then, there were so many times when I contemplated on taking my life, but I didn’t. I want this damn war to end and to lead a normal life. So, that’s why, don’t give up hope. If that sniper missed you, take that as a sign that you’re meant to survive.”

“I know,” you say,”it’s just that I’ve been wandering around for way too long and I’m just tired of running. I don’t have any family, at least not here. They live back in the country, in a remote small town, and that too a very long way away from here. I came here, to the capital for education.”

“A college student? No wonder you look so young and like a pretty little girl,” she says in a mocking tone.

“Ha ha very funny, and you look so old that I thought you were my long lost grandma,” you reply back.

“Hey! I’m just forty-two,” she says harshly, while playfully hitting you.

“Sure, sure, now where was I? Ah yes, so when the war broke out, those damn army fucks decided to make our dorm building as the first target for shelling. I still remember that day. My feet were literally shaking, as the foundation of the building started to give away. Me, and a few others managed to rush out through the fire exit, only to be greeted by machine gun fire. Most of them were in front of me, I was behind them. Th-they were my shield. If not for them...I would’ve been dead. I immediately lied within the bodies and acted dead. Those brutal fuckers were personally shooting each corpse in the head...” as I speak the tone of my voice begins to crumble and shake.

She puts up a reassuring hand on my shoulder, and then embraces me,”It’s all right.”

“Ye-Yeah, thanks,” I say,”they came closer and closer, shooting each body on the way. I was so scared, but I don’t know what happened to me at that instant. As soon as that soldier came close to me, I springed up, grabbed his rifle, shot him, and ran as fast as I could. Bullets were whizzing past my head as I rushed away. Miraculously, I wasn’t shot,” I say, just before another sound of firing echoes a few blocks away.

“That, was a pretty daring move, you’re damn lucky kid,” she says.

“Oh please, don’t call me that,” you reply,”anyway after that, I’ve been on the run, trying to find a way out of this hellhole city, back to my parents,” you say as you throw a stick of wood in the fire.

“That’s impossible, the military has practically locked down the city until those rebel fucks surrender,” she says.

“And we citizens are caught up in the middle of the crossfire, scurrying like rats in the dark, in search of food,” you add.

After this, there’s a moment of silence, and all you hear is the sound of mortar shells striking another unfortunate target.

“You know, I never did get your name,” you say.

“Nora, you?”

“Jeff. You look pretty good for an old lady in her forties,” you say teasingly.

“Oh shut up, Jeff. What do you want?” She replied, in an annoyed tone.

“Well,” you say, as you go towards her and force yourself on her lips. She’s momentarily taken by surprise, but then follows through with you. Eventually, pushing you down below her.

“Man you’re pretty strong,” you say, as both of you spend time together...

Jeff and Nora, a single silver of hope in this ravaged land, torn apart by war. Let’s hope the two of them make it through this alive.


Story H:


There are Monsters in the Woods

There are monsters in the woods. You probably don’t believe me. You probably think I’m crazy or just making up some lame bedtime story to scare kids. But you weren’t there that night. You didn’t hear the snapping of the branches as it approached us, or see the long, thin scratches it left on it’s victim, or smell that sharp sickening, metallic scent of blood in the air. You might not believe in monsters, but I do. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. And however horrific and terrifying the stories may be, the truth is so much worse.

It all happened on the night I went camping with my friends, Jordan and Ollie. We were all in our early teens by then, and we lived in a pretty safe area, so our parents weren’t really worried about letting us go camping in the woods. The only problem was that my mom made me take my little brother Charlie with us. He was a pain in the ass the whole time, complaining that his pack was too heavy, making us put up his tent because he couldn’t figure out how, dropping half his marshmallows in the fire and demanding that we gave him some of ours. Still, at least it was fun having Charlie around when the ghost stories started.

Even the most run of the mill, generic ghost stories terrified him and he practically jumped out of his skin when the three of us switched off our flash-lights and screamed for a cheesy jump scare. At about midnight, Ollie wondered off, looking for a bush to do his business. That’s when Jordan told us the story that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

The monster he told us about lived in the very woods where we were camping. A creature that you might hear coming, but won’t see until it’s too late. You’ll know it’s there if you hear a twig snap behind you, but when you turn around, you see nothing but trees. You’ll probably assume it was nothing and ignore the sound, only to hear the noise again, but closer. Turning around, you’ll see nothing but trees once more, although you may notice that one of the trees seems to be ever so slightly closer than it was before. Dismissing this as your imagination, you’ll go back to whatever you were doing. Then you’ll hear another twig snap, only now, it’ll come from right behind you. At this point, you need to run for your life and not stop until you’re out of the forest, because if you turn around again, you’ll see it.

The beast is so like the trees of the wood, that’s it’s almost impossible to tell the difference, until you see it face to face. But once you do see it, you’ll know that you’re looking into the face of death. The monster will lumber over you, with it’s cold, wooden skin, long, scraggly hair of ivy, hollow, sunken eyes and it’s great, slender, branch arms, with long, thorned, claw-like fingers that it uses to wrap it’s victims in a bloody embrace. Before you even have time to let out a scream, the creature will tangle you in it’s thorny branches, trapping you forever in the belly of the tree. And if you travel deep enough into the woods and search the trees carefully, you might just be able to catch a glimpse of the petrified eyes of it’s victims staring back at you, begging to be set free.

As soon as Jordan finished his story, we heard the branch snap. Charlie screamed in terror, but me and Jordan just laughed. “Oh, don’t be such a baby, it’s just Ollie!” I reassured my brother, shining my flash-light in the direction of the noise. But Ollie wasn’t there.

“Hey, Ollie!” Jordan called out, “Get back over here! Seriously, how long do you need to take a piss?” There was no answer.

For a few seconds, we just stared into the forest, searching for the source of the noise. There was nothing there. Nothing but trees. But as my eyes scanned the deep darkness of the woods, something finally caught my eye. I swear, I saw one of the branches move.

“Run!” Jordan yelled, and the three of us sprinted into the forest as fast as out legs would carry us.

“Keep running!” I called back to Charlie as he started to fall behind us. “Don’t let it catch you!”

That’s when my brother’s fate was sealed. He managed to lose his footing and stumble down the side of a small hill, falling into a wild blackberry bush, cutting himself up pretty badly on all the thorns and letting out a pained and helpless cry. He was trapped.

You’re probably thinking this is the part where the monster snatched Charlie up and dragged him away into the forest, never to be seen again. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not what happened at all. Why? Because, as I’m sure you already know, ghost stories aren’t real.

“Oh, fuck!” I yelled, dropping the charade as I started clambering down the hill. “Guys, cut it out and get down here!”

At this point, Ollie came out from behind the trees, laughing as they waved about the branches in his hands. This was all his idea, of course. We’d planned it all out in advance, and the prank had worked like a charm, at least until Charlie fell. “Holy shit, did you see his face?” Ollie asked, cruelly. “I think the poor kid pissed himself!”

“Ollie, shut up!” I yelled. “He looks hurt, real bad!”

My friends stopped joking after that and came down the hill to where I stood over the crying Charlie. “Oh damn, those scratches look nasty,” Jordan observed. “You okay kid?”

“Leave me alone!” Charlie wailed as he wiped at the blood on his face. “Why did you guys do that? Why the hell do you hate me so much?”

“Dude, chill out, it was just a joke!” Ollie scolded him.

“Well it wasn’t funny!” Charlie snapped. “Mum and Dad won’t think it’s funny when they see what you did to me!”

“Oh no you don’t,” I told my brother firmly. “If you tell them what happened, I’ll be grounded for the rest of my life. We’ll just tell them you fell, and everything will be fine. Now come on, let’s go back to camp.”

“NO!” Charlie screamed. “I don’t want to go back to the camp! I’m going back home, and I’m telling Mum and Dad everything!”

“The hell you will!” Ollie objected. “I’m not taking the blame for this just because you’re such a pussy you can’t take a stupid joke. Now stop your fucking whining and come back to camp.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Charlie insisted, pulling his sleeves free from the branches as he got to his feet. “I’m going home!”

I freaked out. My parents would kill me if they saw the state of Charlie, with all those scratches and bruises, and he told them it was our fault. I chased after him and grabbed his arm to stop him from leaving. I warned Charlie that if he told our parents what happened, they’d never let me take him camping again. He just cried that he didn’t want to go camping again and pulled away. Ollie insulted him, Jordan tried to reason with him, but nothing worked. Charlie was adamant that he was going home, and he was going to tell my parents everything.

Finally I lost my temper and smacked my brother hard across his face. “You’re not telling them anything!” I insisted! “Stop crying and come back to camp now, or you’ll regret it!” This only made things ten times worse. Charlie cried out even louder, wailing that now he was going to tell my parents that I hit him too.

Then it all got out of control. Ollie lifted one of the branches still in his hand and brought it down on Charlie’s head, insisting that I wasn’t joking, and that we’d beat him senseless if he even breathed a word about what happened tonight.

“Oh fuck, man! What did you do that for?” Jordan snapped, horrified, shining his torch at Charlie to reveal a trail of blood dripping down his forehead.

“Shit,” I whispered under my breath. This was bad. This was very bad.

Jordan tried to comfort Charlie, and said that we’d get him cleaned up, but Charlie just kept on wailing and insisted that he wanted to go back home. I couldn’t let that happen. If my parents saw what Ollie did to Charlie, they’d never let me hang out with him or Jordan again. God knows how long I’d be grounded for. Hell, they’d probably send to me off to some special school for juvenile delinquents. My life would be over.

I tried every thing to stop him. Yelling, begging, bribing, threatening, but nothing seemed to work. In the end I purposely tripped Charlie over, just to stop him getting any closer to the house. This was a huge mistake. Once he was down, Ollie started stomping on him, yelling at my brother that he wasn’t going anywhere, and he wasn’t going to say a word to anyone. That’s when Charlie started screaming for help.

“Charlie, shut up!” I yelled, dropping to the ground and covering his mouth with my hand to silence him. But this only caused him to bite me and scream even louder. Jordan started panicking, begging Charlie to stop screaming, as Ollie continued kicking, stomping, and threatening my brother, and I tried to hold my hand firmly over his mouth to stop the screaming. Everything we did only made him scream louder and louder. Until I found that rock on the ground. Then the screaming finally stopped.

We covered our tracks pretty well, giving our families and the cops a vague story about a man with a trench-coat and a huge beard dragging Charlie into his car and driving away. It was too dark to see what make or colour the car were, and of course we didn’t see the licence plate. They searched for my brother of course, but they never found him. Nobody ever suspected the truth.

I didn’t really hang out with Ollie or Jordan after that. After what happened, being around them just felt wrong. I kind of just kept to myself. Not really talking much or making friends with anyone. My parents thought I was just traumatised by the loss of my brother. I suppose I was, but not for the reasons everyone thinks.

Every now and then I go back to the woods, and find the big, old oak tree with the large pile of rocks at the base. I stare at the rocks, and wonder how many of them I’d have to move before I’d find Charlie’s little bones buried underneath.

There are monsters in the woods. I should know. I’m one of them.



Story I:


It was a dark, stormy, overcast day as Simon walked along the sidewalk. He walked quickly, with his head down, passing through the different alleyways and side roads and shortcuts through backyards it took to get home.
He took a turn into a darker, shadier alley then most, and looked around. This was the scary part. There were always rats or a raccoon rummaging around in here, and every time he was scared by a bumping or rattling, he simply convinced himself that it was an animal looking for food. He continued on cautiously, trying to quiet his steps, trying not to disturb any alley cats or raccoons or rats rummaging around.
There was always an old streetlamp on in this alley, but it was always flickering on and off, only increasing the scariness of the alley. But today, it was off. He shrugged, and continued on. As he neared the lamp, some sort of sixth sense started nagging him to turn back. He shrugged it off, shaking his head as he continued on. A trash can toppled over, it’s contents spilling all over the ground, and the dead silence of the alley shattered with a resounding clang.
It’s just a raccoon or a rat or a cat, nothing to be scared of, he reassured himself as he started to run. As he passed the streetlamp, it started to flicker, revealing grotesque shapes and shadows writhing. They were visible enough not to be figments of his imagination, that he couldn’t ignore them.
He started to sprint, to run from his fear, and from what he thought hid in the shadows. He turned the corner, onto a bigger street, and stopped to catch his breath. His lungs couldn’t take it, he was unatheletic and slightly overweight, not accustomed to running even the shortest of distances. Though it was the middle of the day, all of the streetlights on the street turned on, and after a few seconds began flickering like the lamp in the alley, casting strange, writhing shadows all over the place. All of the lids on the trash cans lining the street started to bang against the cans, going up, and then dropping down with a loud clink. He thought he could see a silhouette leaning against the wall, something gripped in its hand. Scared out of his mind, he ran back into another alley, trying to get away from everything he could see, just wanting it to go away. The streetlights there started flickering as well.
Simon ran, trying to get away from everything he saw, the figure especially. He looked back, his heart pounding. It was dead silent again. He looked around, apprehensive of the fact that the trash cans could start banging again, the streetlights could start flickering faster than a strobe light on Halloween. He turned and ran again, ran the five blocks home to his house, where he could forget about his troubles.
But he never reached home. As he turned on his street, everything that wasn’t nailed down started to float in a wide circle around him, the diameter spanning across the street. Dirt, rocks, lawn ornaments, he even saw a cat fly by. In any other situation, it would have been funny, but this wasn’t any other situation. He stood in the middle of the twirling debris, bewildered and confused. The wall in front of him parted, and the figure he saw earlier walked through. He seemed to be an ordinary man, albeit extremely tall, and with a blank white hood covering his face.
Wait a minute. That’s no hood. That’s its face, he realized as the figure slowly walked toward him. Simon backed away, not wanting to know what the figure wanted from him. He but as he backed away, he steppped into a small pothole, and stumbled. The figure took the advantage and surged forward faster than Simon thought possible its long legs a blur as it closed in on its prey. It’s pale, bony hand wrapped around his throat.
The figure then picked him up, and threw him back as if he weighed nothing more than an action figure. The figure produced a gleaming, black sword, completely undecorated, but completely sharp enough to hack through flesh. How it made it appear in its hand so quickly, he did not know, but what he did know is that he needed to get out of there right the fuck now. He crab walked backward on his hands and feet, wanting to put as much distance between him and the figure as possible.
If the figure noticed, it didn’t act upon it or show it at all. Simon finally reached the twirling barrier, but as he did, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He had just enough time to turn his head before the black sword spun into his neck, decapitiating him and showering blood everywhere. On the screen it displayed the words ‘game over’ in bloodred letters.
“Damn, that one VR game keeps killing me over and over again, I can’t ever figure it out. How was it that you did it?” Simon asked his friend Quentin.
“I just didn’t get scared and run away,” was his cool reply. Everything about him was oh-so-cool, something that Simon loved about him but sometimes hated. This was one of those times.
“Dude, it took you like ten attempts to finish it! That was only my second! Cut me some slack, will you?” He passed the VR headset to Quentin, and stepped off the omnidirectional treadmill. “I’m going home.” And yet as he walked home, he decided to take a shortcut down a dark ally, with a streetlamp in the middle of it.



Story J:


A Lesson

They had called him Jack – ‘Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick.’ And he was very nimble, and he was very quick. He could easily outpace his playmates, dodging through the dust devils and leaping over the gnarled, tired tree stumps. There was something about Nullagine’s bumpy terrain. Growing up demanded a certain brevity of breath. And unlike the sweeping vistas of ‘flat-lands’ like Melbourne, the eye was confined to the next hill over – focused only on what came ahead. The soles of Jack’s feet seemed impervious to the burning ground as he raced around, growing stronger and stealthier with time.

Now at the ripe old age of eight, Jack felt king of his world – the formidable emperor of the dust-encrusted slums, the thorny bushes and the parched gullies. No nook or cranny was left unexplored by those calloused hands. His fingernails, chipped and torn, were testament to a life of digging in the cracked and hardened earth – a search for sustenance in a sea of red dirt and dust.

He had become quite skilled at carrying the small beads of brown, muddy water he located with his lithe fingers. “I haven’t spilled a drop!” he would proudly proclaim to his friends, balancing the sun-weary bucket on his head. Under that pitiless sun, any errant animal he spotted on this journey home was captured; lizards were his favourite, and he would suck out their lifeblood with a satisfying crunch.

Yet this self-styled ruler had glimpsed something new this dawn – perhaps his recent growth spurt had expanded his horizons. On the border of his kingdom lay an unfamiliar haze and an unfamiliar colour, a lush hue that coruscated among the oppressive waves of heat. Jack recognised it immediately: it was the fabled green, but in such great quantity and expanse. Previous encounters had been limited to the brief rains that deigned to sprinkle his realm, when peculiar shapes poked through the shrivelled soil and quickly withered away.
This was the world of which the elders spoke. This was the world before Day Zero – that day of agony and misery. But Day Zero had faded in the minds of most; it was a mere afterthought in his land of anarchy and chaos and survival. He had heard tales of water clearer than air in that blessed sanctuary. He had heard stories of food with rigid, green exteriors yet sweet, red flesh. Jack, the curious, restless, unsettled explorer, yearned to witness such sights. He decided to depart at dusk.

The sun had bedded itself now and the rocks cracked as they cooled under the soothing hand of night. Jack set out, cloaked in the darkness. Learning from the snakes that dotted the landscape, he slithered silently, forsaking the intimate to explore the alien.
Like a siren’s song, the lure of the emerald plains coiled him in. His breast beat with the exhilaration of adventure and the knowledge of conquering the unknown. In his brazen enthusiasm, however, he suppressed the warnings of the elders that flitted through his head like sparks. Vague recollections of dos and don’ts, the drooling of the senile, failed to surface out of the milieu of excitement.

The journey was long, but Jack’s spirit never flagged – the beckoning call of the soft, cool, fragrant unknown drove him ever on. Finally, at the breaking of dawn, he reached the frontiers, ready to expand the empire. An expression of bliss erupted on his face; he was standing on that edge of paradise. His eyes hungrily surveyed the magic spread before him.
Here were gigantic plants radiating vitality, with transparent drips of water falling onto a soft, brown earth. Fresh and succulent aromas enveloped him, and the velvet, moist soil made him sleepy. Stepping in further to explore his utopia, Jack was abruptly hindered by a fence – a large camouflaged structure he had overlooked in his wide-eyed excitement. Frustrated by this obstruction – the final hurdle before he could unlock the fairyland – he stood there irresolutely considering his options.

Suddenly, the plants on the opposite side of the fence rustled and parted. A little animal tentatively stepped out. Jack observed the creature and realised it was a girl, clothed in scintillating finery that obscured much of her body. She appeared younger than him and was so clean that she blinded Jack with the glistening lustre of her skin. He sensed the fear flickering in her eyes, rapidly replaced by overwhelming curiosity and fascination. Jack recognised a kindred spirit.

Emboldened, he stepped towards the fence and laced his fingers through. After momentary hesitation, the little girl did the same. Her soft, silky hands and beaming, pearly smile reminded Jack of the stories he had heard of angels in heaven. With every stroke of her cherubic fingers, tingles fled down the intrepid explorer’s arm.

A large figure crashed through the plants with a thunderous laugh.

“There you are, Joy, you naughty thing. Hiding from Mother are you? Come, let us eat breakfast, child. It is time for school soon.” At that moment, the mother spied her daughter’s companion. With a heart-rending shriek that made Jack gasp, she lunged for Joy and dragged her from the fence.

Crushing the girl to her chest, her brown limbs shielding Hoy’s lissom frame, the woman inspected Jack from a safe distance. His bright, blue, uncomprehending eyes innocently locked with her fierce dark ones. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Get away, you filth,” she railed at him. “Get away and stay away. I can smell you from here you repulsive, vulgar animal. Don’t come back or I’ll have the dogs set on you.” She retreated with her treasure back into the green.

With an unfamiliar pain in his chest, Jack fled from paradise and scuttled like a dung beetle back to the dry, dusty hovel he called his home.

Jack was nimble, Jack was quick, but he could not outrun the dogged shame that had blossomed in his heart.




Tourney of the Chillen on 5/24/2019 1:11:27 PM

I'm calling this--time is up.

Tourney of the Chillen on 5/24/2019 8:07:57 AM

The bracket style is cool, but since we've gone back and forth a half dozen times at this point, let's just do free-for-all and do a bracket next time for my own sanity.

Duel! Kind of! on 5/23/2019 7:59:07 AM

Maybe tomorrow I will make a new thread, with a post for each bracket.  That will help keep the discussion organized (ha).